Critical Habitat Designation

Critical Habitat Designation Information

Every waterbody has critical habitat - those areas that are most important to the overall health of the aquatic plants and animals. Remarkably, 80 percent of the plants and animals on the state's endangered and threatened species list spend all or part of their life cycle within the near shore zone. As many as 90 percent of the living things in lakes and rivers are found along the shallow margins and shores.

Wisconsin law mandates special protections for these critical habitats. Critical Habitat Designation is a program that recognizes those areas and maps them so that everyone knows which areas are most vulnerable to impacts from human activity. A critical habitat designation assists waterfront owners by identifying these areas up front, so they can design their waterfront projects to protect habitat and ensure the long-term health of the lake they where they live.

Areas are designated as Critical Habitat if they have Public Rights Features, Sensitive Areas or both. Public rights features (defined in NR 1.06, Wis. Adm. Code) include the following:

  1. fish and wildlife habitat;
  2. physical features of lakes and streams that ensure protection of water quality;
  3. reaches of bank, shore or bed that are predominantly natural in appearance; and
  4. navigation thoroughfares;

Find more information on Critical Habitat Designations by following this link.